On walkabout to find a home

NATURAL WORLD

PAUL GAY
Last updated 06:00 08/01/2014
Stick insect
 

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This tiny stick insect, seen here on a 50 cent coin, was found climbing up the side of a car in a driveway.

It was mid-September.

Here in New Zealand we have at least 20 species of stick insects. They live in our forests, scrub lands, high mountain and increasingly are being found around our home gardens.

Although they often occur in quite large numbers they are seldom seen in their natural habitats due to their resemblance to the twigs of the plants on which they feed.

They mimic twigs in colour, shape and movement.

Most are seen in the early winter when they leave their habitats seeking to find warmer sites as temperatures drop. At this time they can often be found on the walls of our homes.

Female stick insects can lay at least 100 eggs. When the eggs are ready the female just releases them as she sits on foliage and they just drop to the ground. They look like small dark brown seeds.

The eggs can hatch after a period of a few weeks to several months. This particular specimen was born in the spring as the weather began to warm and was probably in the process of finding a host tree or bush when it came across the car.

It seems that all species will feed on manuka with some thriving on rata, rimu and totara. In the home garden, introduced plants such as willows, cedars and even roses appear to provide adequate food requirements for some species.

However, most species feed at night and so it's quite difficult to discover just what they do eat.

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- The Southland Times

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